A Handy Checklist for Roadtrip Preparation.
Ensuring a Smooth and Safe Journey with Some Basic Preparation
Regardless of whether you’re heading an hour down the road or to the other side of the country, it's crucial to prepare your vehicle adequately.
From mechanical checks to packing essentials, planning rest stops, correctly loading trailers,there are a lot of things to have organised before you embark on an epic drive. This guide will give you some of the key steps to get your vehicle road-trip ready, ensuring a memorable and trouble-free experience.
Aim to either book a vehicle inspection the week before you head away, and ask your mechanic to perform a thorough check of your vehicle's essentials. Or if you’re handy, you can perform a few basic checks yourself. This can include:
- Fluid Checks: Ensure your engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid are at the right levels.
- Battery Inspection: Confirm your vehicle battery is fully charged and the connections are clean and tight.
- Brake Check: Make sure your brakes are responsive and there’s no unusual noise or vibrations.
- Lights and Signals: Test all lights – headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and interior lights.
Most of the time, a mechanical inspection will reveal any possible issues as well as provide information on upcoming maintenance requirements.
Tyre Pressure Checks and Tread Depth Inspections
Regardless of whether you’re heading to the desert or the Snowy Mountains, ensure that your tyres are in good roadworthy condition. Many of these checks can be performed in your own driveway, but your local Tyrepower is always available for a free tyre inspection and quote.
- Tyre Pressure: Check the pressure against the manufacturer's recommendation. You can find your recommended tyre pressures on your tyre placard which is usually found in the drivers door jamb.
- Tread Depth: Ensure it's above the legal limit for safety. Minimum legal tread depth is 1.5mm but grip and wet weather performance starts to deteriorate at tread depths of 3.00mm or less.
- Spare Tyre: Double check your spare tyre is in good condition, is properly inflated and is ready to use, should the need arise.
For vehicles without a spare tyre, now is the time to ensure you know how to use whatever system your vehicle has to help you get back on the road. Some cars come fitted with run-flat tyres, a puncture repair kit, sealant and an air pump or even a temporary spare tyre that has a limited top speed.
If you have any concerns or questions about how to use your spare tyre, your local Tyrepower store is full of friendly and experienced staff who can offer advice and tips on how to check your tyres.
What to Pack: Tools, Snacks, Food, Drinks
Alright, say your vehicle is prepared, fuelled up, serviced and ready to go… What next? What should you bring with you? We recommend a small selection of hand tools, food and water
Tools and Emergency Kits
- Basic Toolkit: Your vehicle manufacturer often has a few hand tools in the car including tools to change a tyre, but you should grab a few extras such as wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer and some duct tape.
- Jumper Cables or a jump charger: More than a few trips away have been spoiled by leaving electrical items on while the vehicle engine isn’t running. Jumper leads are cheap and if you don’t need them yourself, you might be able to at least help someone else out with them.
- Flashlight and Batteries: For any emergency situations at night.
- First Aid Kit: Depending on where you’re travelling, insect repellent, a snake bite kit or even just bandaids and wound cream help out when things get a little out of hand.
- Toilet Paper and Wet Wipes: If you don’t need them, fantastic. If you do need them, they are invaluable. Wet wipes can be used to help clean scrapes and cuts too.
Snacks, Food, and Drinks
- Snacks: Non-perishable snacks like nuts, dried fruits and granola bars are great, but consider other items, like chocolate, energy bars and fruit for their high energy content.
- Hydration: Dehydration is a primary cause of drowsiness. So stay on top of your liquid intake to keep you alert and attentive while on long drives. Depending on where you’re travelling, most experts recommend 4 litres of drinkable water per person, per day.
Travelling with Pets and Children
One of the leading causes of vehicle accidents is distraction. While a majority of the focus is on devices such as mobile phones, stereos and more, children and pets can significantly contribute to distractions and fatigue.
It’s not a family road trip unless the whole family comes along, right? It can be easy to get caught up in vehicle prep and packing clothes and sports equipment for when you get to your destination, but it’s the travel time that often causes the most anxiety, stress and frustration when travelling with children.
- Entertainment: Books, tablets and simple games can keep children entertained on longer driving legs. Drawing pads, good old ‘I Spy’ and ‘Spotto’ are great for keeping kids distracted in the car.
- Snacks: Healthy, mess-free snacks such as cut-up apples are ideal. Cheetos in the car are a hard pass.
- Safety seats: If your children require booster seats, ensure they are cleaned, properly installed and comfortable.
- Window shades: While adults in the front seat have the benefit of dashboard ventilation to keep you cool, often the climate control isn’t as effective for passengers in the back. Make sure you have options for ensuring everyone is at a comfortable temperature. Young children don’t typically appreciate the view out the window, but will appreciate being shaded from direct sunlight.
- Children mirrors: When travelling with babies or toddlers, you can get mirrors that clip onto your rearview mirror that provide a way to keep an eye on your young ones. This will give you an early warning sign if your children are becoming restless and fidgety.
Travelling with pets can be excellent or a truly horrific experience depending on how you pre-plan.
- Bring their bed or favourite blanket for familiarity. This can reduce stress for animals not used to travelling.
- Hydration, food and shade: Pack enough food and water, along with bowls. Remember that dogs, cats and other animals can’t talk and tell you what they need.
- Safety: Use a pet harness or carrier while driving to restrict your pets' movement and keep them safe in the event of an accident.
- Medication: For pets who stress out easily, consult your vet for medication or relaxants to help them. Relaxed pets are less likely to distract you as a driver and less likely to accidentally injure themselves.
Planning Routes: Breaks and Stops
Nobody likes sitting down in a car for an entire day watching scenery flow past. Break up your trip with rest breaks to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, take turns driving or just to admire the view.
- Rest Stops: Aim for breaks every 2-3 hours to stretch and refresh.
- Meal Breaks: Identify family-friendly restaurants or picnic spots. Use your phone to identify well-reviewed places to use a restroom and grab some food.
- Scenic Spots: Incorporate interesting locations to keep the journey engaging. Sometimes a detour off the main road can reveal stunning views, quiet picnic locations, amazing hole-in-the-wall cafes or other curious and surprising sights!
Towing a Trailer or Caravan Safely
Whether you’re towing a caravan, a boat, a box trailer full of dirt bikes or a project car on a trailer, the basics remain the same. Spend some time before you trip getting up to speed on your maintenance, repack trailer bearings if necessary, check lighting, tyre pressure and tread depth. Ensure your spare tyre is adequate.
- Check Connections: Ensure the hitch is secure and lights are connected after every rest stop.
- Brake and Turn Signals: Double-check lights at the start of every day.
- Weight Distribution: Load the trailer evenly to maintain balance, with a minimum of 100kg of tow ball downweight. Typically 10% of trailer+payload weight should be pushing down on your tow ball for stability.
- Practice Driving: Familiarise yourself with the added length and weight. This often requires planning ahead to ensure you don’t end up stuck somewhere you’re unable to turn around.
Time to Drive!
As you can see, preparing your vehicle for a road trip is not just about packing and mechanical checks; it's about ensuring safety, comfort, and peace of mind.
By reading this far and working through our checklist, you’re setting the stage for a journey that’s as pleasant and worry-free as the destinations you’re headed to.